Thursday, January 22, 2009
Copywriting - What's the big Deal? It is - that's it!
"8 Things You MUST Know Before Hiring a Copywriter"
by Ali Brown
If you're considering hiring copywriting help for your next sales letter, brochure, website, or marketing project. Congrats! You should get great results if you hire a pro to do it right.
Many solo-preneurs have valid concerns about letting an outsider develop their content. After all -- it's your business, you know it best, and your image is critical. However, you're wrapped up in your business every day.
A good copywriter can see your business in a new light, draw out the key benefits of your products and services, and communicate that excitement to your clients and prospects.
Working with a writer isn't complicated, however it will benefit you tremendously to become familiar with how the relationship typically works and ways to help the process move along smoothly. So, here are my top 8 tips on how to choose and work with a copywriter:
1. Understand what you're trying to accomplish.
Streamline the writing process by figuring out the principal points you need to communicate -- *before* you bring in a writer. Who is your target audience? What is your message? What is unique about your business? In what tone do you want to speak to your reader?
And most important: What response do you ideally want the reader to make? Having this information agreed upon BEFORE you get a writer involved will save you unnecessary copy revisions and keep your costs down.
2. Have a realistic schedule.
Rushed work usually means it'll be expensive... or just plain bad! Avoid hastily hiring a copywriter and dumping a rush job on her. Not only will you not have time to thoroughly check her experience and references, but, no matter how wonderfully talented she is, her first draft will not be 'fully cooked.' Most copywriters need some time to let words and ideas simmer.
Most writers will request several WEEKS to develop your copy, so set a realistic schedule to give the creative process ample time. Count on going through one or two revisions as your writer refines the piece and conveys the key benefits of what you're promoting.
3. Make sure the writer has written for the *medium* you want.
Let's say you need someone to re-energize the copy on your Web site. A freelancer who has only written magazine articles won't likely have the skills to create content for a dynamic Web site. She's probably not proficient at breaking-up copy into easily digestible bits, integrating hyperlinks that entice your users to take action, and keeping your end-user in mind to plan a friendly, easily-navigable site.
She may be able to learn how, but you'll be paying for her slow ramp-up speed. Take time instead to find the right person -- it will save you many headaches down the road.
4. Experience within your industry isn't always necessary.
When I was a copywriter myself, I heard many prospects say, 'So you've never written for a _______ company before?' A valid concern on your part, but don't worry. A writer's ability to write well for the medium is typically more important than her having prior experience in your industry.
Many writers are true generalists and write just as well for an edgy new media start-up as they do for a giant hospital network. They're very proficient at diving into your business, learning it inside and out, and churning out great copy to entice your target market.
Now of course, if you're producing a technically oriented business-to-business Web site or marketing piece, you may want to hire a writer with experience in both your project's medium and your industry. If you find a good one, hold on tightly and pay well. You've struck gold!
5. Ask for references, and contact them.
All writers can show you samples of well-written material, but how do you know if they'll work to understand your communication needs, meet deadlines, and act professionally in front of your clients? Any great copywriter should have an ample list of references that she can share with you. Be sure to contact at least two of them, and ask them about her weaknesses as well as her strengths.
6. Keep in mind that you get what you pay for.
It amazes me how businesspeople will drop thousands of dollars on Web or print design and hesitate to spend half as much on great copy. Pictures and design enhance your message, but jeez folks ...the writing IS your message!
Good copywriting does not come cheaply -- you'll find writers who charge anywhere from $75 - $250 per hour and up. You'll pay on the higher side for an experienced writer, one with a particular specialty, or one who's also a proficient editor. (Many writers are also great editors, but not all writers are editors, and vice versa.)
Veteran sales letter pros typically charge high flat fees, and I know of a few colleagues who charge up to $100,000.00 for one single salesletter, plus royalties. But you can find good copywriters for much less.
7. Work on more than a handshake.
True writing pros will give you an agreement they've drawn up for you. However, you'll occasionally find yourself having to draft an agreement for the project. This doesn't have to be complex -- a simple letter that you both sign should do fine. Be sure to include the project size, number of revisions included, timetable, and agreed fee (this can be a flat fee or hourly rate).
And don't forget to ask what's *not* included. For example, many writers charge extra for in-person meetings, research time, and weekend or rush work. You should also expect to pay an upfront retainer. Most writers charge one-third to one-half of the total project fee upfront, and many won't begin your project until they have the signed agreement and check in hand. And if you have sensitive or proprietary information, don't hesitate to have your writer sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).
8. Give your writer background info at the start.
It often happens that a writer is hired for a large project, and the first thing she's asked to do is come in and interview all the principals of the company. After several days of interviews, the writer is then handed the company's brochures, annual report, and marketing plan.
If this background info had been given up front, the client could have saved hours of time and money! At the beginning of your project, pass on any and all previous and applicable info.
Online entrepreneur Alexandria K. Brown publishes the award-winning 'Highlights on Marketing & Success' weekly ezine with 36,000+ subscribers. If you're ready to jump-start your marketing, make more money, and have more fun in your small business, get your FREE tips now at www.AlexandriaBrown.com
Visit me at www.PamPerryPR.com too!
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